It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird

If I asked anyone for an incident of human injustice, whether the slaughter of an innocent person or prejudice against a race, they could give me at least one. But, they most likely would not know where a mockingbird could possibly come in. That is what I will explain. There are many different examples of conflict in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, such as discrimination against the colored people, Scout—the protagonist of the story—against her schoolteacher, Miss Caroline, and the internal conflict Scout has with herself.

A consistent theme throughout To Kill a Mockingbird is the discrimination against the colored race. “‘It ain’t right, Atticus,’ said Jem. ‘No son, it’s not right.’” (Lee, 248) This exchange of dialogue is spoken by Jem and his father, Atticus. Atticus, a lawyer, had just finished arguing a case   ng a colored man, and lost. This shows that some people believed in fairness and equality over others, but the majority of people at the time still prejudiced the black race. “Tom Robinson’s a colored man, Jem. No jury in this part of the world’s going to say, ‘We think you’re guilty, but not very,’ on a charge like that. It was either a straight acquittal or nothing.” (250) This is a continuation of their discussion on the trial. Atticus alludes that it was hopeless for him to try to defend Tom Robinson. Even if he was not guilty, he still would lose simply because he was black. “In our courts, when it’s a white man’s world against a black man’s, the white man always wins. They’re ugly, but those are the facts of life.” Even though some aspects of racism still exist today, it makes me very glad that we have evolved so much. In places I am familiar with, such as the United States of America, courts will never guarantee wins for the white race when facing the black race. Instead, the innocent side will win regardless of their skin color. Because To Kill a Mockingbird is historical fiction, all the events are more or less accurate. Set in the 1930s, discrimination against colored people were at a high point. People even used the phrase “last hired and first fired” towards blacks. It was during the Great Depression too, so jobs were even harder to find in the first place. At the time, a black man could be charged for highly inappropriate sexual advances for just making eye contact with a white woman. Many African Americans were also lynched. Lynching meant to kill someone by hanging because of an alleged offense, with or without a trial. It was a horrible and unjust procedure, but at the time it seemed reasonable because of discrimination and prejudice.

Another example of conflict is the disagreement and arguments Scout has with her schoolteacher, Miss Caroline. Miss Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere with my reading.” (19) On Scout’s first day of first grade, her teacher tells her not to learn outside of school. Maybe it made sense at that time, but today, I cannot name a single student who does not take classes outside of school. Learning with your teachers at school is crucial, but it can be helpful to strengthen some subjects and concepts or try to understand them better with a tutor. “It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I’ll take over from here and try to undo the damage-” (19) I do not understand what message Miss Caroline is supposed to be giving in this piece of dialogue. Why is it better to begin reading with a “fresh mind”? What is a “fresh mind”? Perhaps, she means to only begin learning to read in the first grade. I personally disagree, and think that it can be better to have some experience beforehand. “We don’t write in the first grade, we print. You won’t learn to write until you’re in the third grade.” (21) Writing is definitely more difficult than printing, and also a harder skill to learn. My advice to Miss Caroline would be to allow first graders who already know how to write to learn a little more writing to prepare them for higher grades, while those who do not know can work more on their printing. In the book Matilda, intelligence is also looked down upon, especially by her parents. I personally think that is very strange. There are a few differences, though. In Matilda by Roald Dahl, Miss Honey is a brilliant teacher compared to Miss Caroline. It is Matilda’s parents who do not believe their daughter has the smarts. Matilda is a genius, with an academic level that is beyond her age like Scout, but in both books there are people trying to push that down and tells them that it will impact her academics and education negatively.

The final example of conflict is the internal conflict Scout has with herself. “I drew a bead on him, remembered what Atticus had said, then dropped my fists and walked away, ‘Scout’s a cow-ward!’ ringing in my ears. It was the first time I ever walked away from a fight.” (87) By here, I feel like Scout has already grown a bit from how she was at the very beginning. Her father had taught her more about empathy and trying to see things from different points of views, and she knows how to control herself better. “‘You don’t care what happens to him,’ I said. ‘You just send him on to get shot at when all he was doin’ was standin’ up for you.’” (120) Something Scout regularly has trouble understanding is why her father seemingly lets everyone push him around. Atticus scolds her for fighting even when she was only trying to defend him. She also believes he has the best shot out of everyone in Maycomb, and fails to grasp the reason why her father never uses that skill. “Who was the ‘her’ they were talking about? My heart sank: me.” (155) Scout may seem like a tough, smart, perhaps even tomboyish young girl, but underneath that strong appearance, she does doubt herself at times. She wants to defend her father yet simultaneously make him proud, and tries to gain a better understanding of the world around her as well. In the example, she does not actually know who the adults were talking about, but immediately assumes that it is her. I feel that I, like Scout, also have internal conflict with myself. Scout’s main conflict is getting angry at those who make fun of or badmouth her father, and she often has trouble controlling herself from arguing or fighting with those who do. Although others usually do not speak badly of the people I care about, they more often insult some things I like or that I am a fan of. This sometimes makes me annoyed or angry, and I try very hard to control myself and not yell at them. I use my words more than fists when arguing, and I probably wouldn’t even be able to throw a good punch, but words can be very powerful too.

The title of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, is a metaphor. I find it quite interesting and very fitting. Atticus Finch—an ironic name, as a finch is a kind of songbird—says “…remember, it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (103), on which Miss Maudie adds “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” (103). My interpretation of this is the mockingbird is Tom Robinson. He didn’t do anything wrong, but the court still punished him just because of his race. The metaphor is for innocence and human justice. It is also obviously where the title comes from. There are many examples of conflict To Kill a Mockingbird, with the main ones being discrimination against the African-American race in the 1930s, Scout against Miss Caroline, and the internal conflict Scout has against herself. On a final note, always remember it is a sin to kill a mockingbird.

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